when, where, who.

25 August 2012 § 1 Comment

Where grief once lived, in the well-furnished, most accessible corner of my heart, a vacant hobo now resides. He sleeps on the couch, and murmurs prayers into my velvet pillow.

I used to go to that place often; I’d stand in the corner as if I’d been punished, and stare at the vertical line of light that remained even when the meeting walls were dark, a beam that stood fast in the face of my shadow. I felt like the answers to my wonders were chasing me, like they would follow me all the way to the eroding bluffs on the far side of the oceans, and stand still while I stormed and stamped my feet in feigned anger. I wanted my mistakes to be mine forever, my family photographs of opportunities I’d refused and relationships that I’d destroyed – the ones that everyone else might look at and say “well, what the fuck?” if they had any empathy at all. I’d prefer it if they didn’t.

I didn’t go one vacation for others though. Some people go to Hawaii or Scotland or Rome so they can slideshow for their friends and family until every moment of the trip has been altered by repetition, exaggeration, and want for approval and validation. And that’s fine – we all travel for different reasons.

My trips to that dense and sad place could be long forays, and I never brought my camera, or left a note to say that I was leaving, or when I might return. It didn’t cross my mind that disappearing would affect anyone – the prestige, when the rabbit is pulled from the hat, or when Houdini emerged free of his chains and locks, was my favorite part of my magic act, and the only one I wanted to play.

When I started needing a passport for these trips, the scenery started changing from my little corner’s beam of light to the corners of others, who decorated their darkness and built churches and bridges and roads into their mountainscapes. Their coffeeshops and used book stores smelled of musky smoke and old men yellow and brittle near the surface. Young women, my age and beautiful, strolls train station platforms with purpose, elegant hips moving this way and that. Their eyes all wandered, looking for signs which pointed them where they desired. I wanted to be near them, in their hearts, our passions collided – we, long distance trains crashing in remote areas of the world; Iceland, Nicaragua, Amsterdam.

Yet on my own journey I squandered what energy I had on running away from myself. Ever convinced that if I went far enough fast enough, the distractions would suffice to entertain me. I wouldn’t have to deal with all that broken, bruised hearts are made of – I mean, look at all the beauty in the world! And the beds of maidens induce warm and quiet comas…

Every traveler finds eventually that no matter where or who one leaves, the Self tags along persistent, a precocious child with the curiosity of an excitable puppy. We discover on overnight train trips in winter what patience is and how to use it, on the side of the road there are mirrors of Us in parallel universes, driving past our extended thumbs scowling on Christmas morning. When we steal books, it is for our highest purpose of learning more about how we entertain ourselves and shove back down what we’d really like to ignore.

When the books were finished and bottles empty, I began. Searching is not an aimless endeavor, even if we tossed the map out the window three towns back; it is listening when there are no sounds, paying attention to the pretty lights’ effect, and knowing what Is, despite the flattering angle. The search is making dire mistakes because, at first, dead ends seemed like lies, and we can’t always heed the posted signs. It is to follow every possibility to its end, regardless of a lacking hope. Sometimes we just see what is there, and turn around. Sometimes there’s a path through the woods that leads to a ghetto, or a palace. What would life be if we never pushed aside the branches?

With this in mind, I converged happily with Sacha and her Kiwi crew, Tyone the gypsy fisherman whose lifestyle I admire and question if I want for myself, outside the Portland house which has provided ample magic to this transient world in which I’ve found my tribe. Our Burning Man RV, with its 80’s futuristic curves and gentle excellence, purred in diesel what I’ve been wondering for some time: perhaps that place in my heart doesn’t need to be filled with grief, or be subject to my cycle of refilling it with sadness whenever love steps in again. I have a fortune to be grateful for, even if Heather’s the one buying the ice cream.

Burning Man, I’m not ready for you, but my heart is wide open. I just have to evict the hobo, and get someone who really knows how to pray to pay the rent.


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